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[KE CyberTorah] Israel and Sukkot

Israel and Sukkot

At this festival of Sukkot, with its deep roots in the land of Israel, I am unabashedly pro-Israel and Zionist.

Sukkot is all about dwelling in our land. Passover connects to God’s hand in history, Shavuot to revelation. Sukkot connects us to Israel. As the festival comes to an end, as the season of joy wraps up, I am grateful to live in a time with a vibrant land of Israel.

I believe in the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. I believe in Israel's right to be great and amazing, and its right to mess up and be an embarrassment. I am glad that Israel has a democracy that allows for transitions of power and real disagreement about values and purpose.

Israel and the Jewish people have the same right of self-determination that all nations of the Earth do. I want a Jewish majority state that can evolve and grow based on Jewish ideas, ethics, and world view. I do also support religious freedom and want Israel to wrestle with being a democracy that offers equal rights of religious expression to all its citizens and room for a plurality of religious views. I suspect some kind of First Amendment that separates Synagogue and State would be a good start. Like all States, I support Israel’s right to exist even when it acts in embarrassing or unethical ways. I trust Israeli democracy to be inefficient, messy, expressive of biases, and better than any other type of government, just like in the US or Europe. I will speak out on those problems and excesses, while still supporting the right of Israel to exist.

I will always speak out for treating Israel's Arab minority with equality.

20% of Israelis are Arabs. Historically, they have associated themselves as Israelis. In recent years, that Israeli identity has weakened for a variety of reasons. I want Israel’s government to take the Arab minority seriously as citizens, making sure they are both de jure and de facto equal citizens under the law. Among other things, this means easier granting of building permits for Arab-Israeli towns and a move towards legalizing the Bedouins in the south.

And I will always speak out for treating Palestinians morally up to but not over the point it threatens Israeli lives and security.

Managing Gaza and the West Bank presents different tactical challenges. The moral question remains the same. How can Israel best foster conditions that invite the formation of stable functional Palestinian civic culture? And what can Israeli policy look like to treat Palestinians as ethically as possible? The ultimate goal should be self-determination of the Palestinians, with an awareness that there is a long road to get there.

I will visit again and buy za'atar in Machane Yehuda, visit my cousins, study Torah, and learn of the land and all its people. I am Zionist and unabashedly pro-Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784